Can monkeys swim? Why all monkeys can’t swim?

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Can monkeys swim? Can all monkeys swim?

Yes, a few of the monkeys can swim, but all monkey species cannot swim. Those that can swim usually dive and float in water using their partial webbed fingers and toes.

Some species can also swim underwater and can hold their breath for a few minutes more than the humans.

A few of the species such as the snow monkeys, proboscis monkeys, lutung, spectacled leaf monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and macaques have been seen to swim very frequently. But the reasons why they swim are not known.

Researchers have seen and stated that some of these above-mentioned monkeys and other species to be able to easily swim.

And there are also reports of a troop of monkeys seen swimming nearly more than 4 miles in the search of shelter and food during the flood.

In regions like Amazon rainforests that remain flooded for up to four months during the rainy seasons, various monkeys have better adapted to living in the treetops and also they go swimming in the floodwaters in search of food and shelter.

Many squirrel monkey and spider monkey species of the Amazon rainforests have been seen swimming across the rivers and streams.


Some black species of monkeys have also been reported swimming in large rivers in Central-Western Brazil.

There are reports of many species of monkeys like that of the black spider monkeys using the ground to socialize, collect food, and cross-open areas that have been reported. And, so they are seen swimming during the flood times to make a living.

The swimming habits of various monkeys have not been well-discovered and studied so far. Probably because many of the species are not yet widely discovered in the wild, and also it takes enough research orientation and field study to learn about such rare swimming habits of monkeys hidden in the wild.

Snow monkeys taking hot water bath in a hot water spring
Snow monkeys taking hot water bath in a hot water spring

Why all monkeys can’t swim?

Yes, all monkeys can’t swim as many of them have heavy-weight, while many can swim but don’t want to, while others don’t even know how to swim because they haven’t encountered any instance with water during their lifetime.

While, those lightweight monkeys that can swim have various tree-dwelling characteristics like having long, soft fur, and they live in small family groups.

Those that are good swimmers are known to have a better-streamlined body with an adequate amount of epidermal fats stored in their skin layers. This allows them to swim better and some are even seen to dive deep into the water.

Those that can’t swim most probably have their low body fat ratio causing them to sink and their top-heavy body composition almost makes it difficult for them to keep their heads above water.

So, there needs to be adequate body fats in order to swim as per the physiology of the biological body. Many of the species can’t swim because they have very low body fat content.

In simple words, those that can’t swim, don’t have a better streamlined bodies or they don’t know the hydrodynamics to apply while swimming in water.

So, if they don’t have a streamlined body, no applied biological hydrodynamics, and low body fat ratio then its very probable that they are more likely to sink like a rock the second they hit the water.

The streamlined makeover of the body allows them to provide very little resistance during their movement in the water.

Hydrodynamics of their body is a kind of biomechanics that help them exert forces with their muscles to help them swim forward in the water.

On the other hand, increasing body fat in swimmers increases buoyancy (the ability to float in water) but also increases form drag and buoyancy. So, low body fat animals are not good swimmers.

With the proper coordination of having a streamlined body, better hydrodynamics, and adequate body fat ratio helps the monkey’s to swim better. Those that don’t aren’t good swimmers.

Another reason why all monkeys can’t swim is that most of the weight of swimming monkeys is concentrated in their upper body mass, very close to their face.

So, they would have to be able to produce substantially more upward force to lift enough of their body out of the water to be able to breathe while swimming and so they can’t swim.

Whereas, macaques or other monkeys that can swim have their body mass organized differently, with more mass and strength in their hindlimbs to help them better propel and swim in water while keeping the light upper body part floating.

How long can a monkey hold its breath?

A few of the monkey species can easily swim with less or without any training of course. For some species, swimming seems to be genetic.

Those monkeys that do deep dive can hold their breath for as long as 3 to 6 minutes for sure. Many researchers have reported that swimming monkeys can hold their breath for as long as 10 minutes approximately.

However, the exact timings for holding their breath underwater is not known due to lack of proper research.

There are other monkeys like the proboscis monkey that can swim very easily and can even dive about 20 meters deep into the water, holding their breath for about 2 to 3 minutes as reported.

The proboscis monkey knows how to make a splash. This weird-nosed animal has quite an aquatic lifestyle for a primate.

It can swim underwater for up to 20 metres and chooses to sleep by the river’s edge.

Many species of monkeys have been seen to swim for several kilometres, and even one adult monkey has been reported to swim for 7 to 10 km in just a day during the floods in search of food.

But, the majority of the monkeys don’t swim for such a far distance. They have been only seen to swim less than 1 km in a day.

Many just like to dive deep into the water or keep floating on the water surface by continuously propelling themselves.

Some other monkeys, such as macaques, can dive, but probably not for such large distances. Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) for example, dive for food, including crabs and other crustaceans.

List of some monkeys that can swim:

1. Proboscis monkey

Proboscis monkeys are very good swimmers. They are seen to leap into the water from a tree and spend most of the time lying either swimming in water or lying in the bed near the water bodies.

Male Proboscis monkeys are famously named for the enormous, pendant, tongue-shaped noses. While the those of juveniles and females have shorter and upturned noses.

They are seen to leap into water when threatened and they can even swim across channels and rivers in order move to new areas.

Their fingers and toes are partially webbed helping them in swimming.

2. Snow monkey

Snow monkeys are also known as Japanese macaques. Macaques are known to leap into the water.

They are also great swimmers and have been reported to swim over half a kilometer.

They are more often seen swimming and soaking themselves in the hot spring water bodies of Japan, mostly in the areas of Jigokudani, Japan.

You will find them leaping and entering the water to relax, swim, play, and grab food that has fallen in.

Throughout the spring, summer, and autumn you may well see monkeys bathing, swimming, or sipping in the water bodies.

3. Spectacled Leaf monkey

Spectacled Leaf monkeys are seen in parts of Thailand. They swim, walk, slither and fly.

They are also found in Malaysia, Burma, and Thailand. They are considered to be endangered and are on the Red List of threatened Species.

Young dusky langurs are born a dazzlingly bright orange but turn black or brown within weeks.

4. Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel monkeys are one of the smallest and most attractive primates. They are highly active, agile, social animals that live high in the trees and move at an extremely fast pace.

Squirrel monkeys are able to swim very well and they live in the trees located nearby and expanding across major river systems.

There are also reports of troops of Squirrel monkeys swimming across the water bodies in search of food during the high flood seasons.

Can apes swim?

Propelled by partially webbed fingers and toes, the monkeys can even swim underwater, but the apes can’t swim.

However, apes do like to take a splash of water and they keep their bodies cool by entering into the shallow water bodies where there’s no chance for them to drown.

Monkeys and apes are the two different species. Monkeys and apes are both primates. Primates contain all the species commonly related to the lemurs, monkeys, apes, including humans.

Examples of apes includes: Gorillas, Chimpanzee, Orangutans, Gibbons, Bonobos, etc

You’ll rarely see an ape paddling about in the water as they don’t swim. They may even drown and die if they get fallen into a deep water body.

They do have a very low body fat ratio that causes them to sink, and also their upper body part is heavier than their lower body part that can make them drown in deep water.

And, due to lacking a streamlined body with their top-heavy body composition makes it extremely difficult for them to keep their heads above water. So, they are not swimmers and can’t swim.

Like the other apes and humans, gorillas cannot swim naturally, therefore they avoid large bodies of water and rivers.

While chimpanzees aren’t big on swimming, they do enjoy an occasional dip. You’ll rarely see a chimp paddling about in the water.

Conclusion: Are monkeys good swimmers?

Yes, those monkeys that can naturally swim are all great swimmers. They are seen to leap into the water, swim, float, and some can even deep dive holding their breath underwater.

All these happen because those monkeys that are literally good swimmers have a streamlined body that follows all the hydrodynamics and biomechanics required for them to swim with also having a high body fat ratio.

Some monkey species are even known to deep dive in order to catch their prey from the water.

Some are also known to swim in order to cross the water bodies and reach the other side.

Some are known to swim many kilometers in search of food, and habitat.

Some are also known to take baths in the water bodies like hot water springs to keep their bodies warm. And, some take both in rivers and streams to keep their bodies cool.

Thus, in conclusion, it can be stated that those monkeys that can swim are naturally good swimmers, and those that don’t can learn to swim with experience and can very often become good swimmers.

Those that lack a streamlined body with low-fat ratio, and those that haven’t swim for generations are not good swimmers and some can’t even swim at all.

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